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Melissa & Dave - Adventures at Sea

Two day sail to Ixtapa

February 8, 2014

We headed off from Manzanillo Thursday planning a two night voyage to Ixtapa.  Thursday night’s trip was amazingly smooth.  So much so that Melissa spent the evening on deck – a first.  She never likes to be in the cockpit in the dark when you can hear the waves crashing all around us.  But it was lovely.  She hit the sack around 10pm and got a decent night’s sleep despite being underway.  When we anchored in Calenta De Campos, Dave hit the sack and managed a few hours sleep as well.  The one weird thing that happened was that some kind of current or boundary layer in the water kept tricking the depth meter into thinking we were in 20 feet of water.  This was freaky as typically we see that when a whale swims under the boat – and then a few seconds later the depth returns to normal.  So there we were cruising along when the depth meter goes to 20 feet and stayed there.  Ok, so some whale is playing with us?  Hmmm.  Dave hailed Salty Dog and they were seeing the same thing 2 miles ahead.  Ok, probably not two whales playing games with sailboats with their engines on.  So we figured it had to be the current.  Whenever the depth meter would go weird we also sped up.

We left Manzanillo at around noon Thursday.  A few hours earlier than our original plan.  Our buddy boat – Salty Dog was worried because they are smaller they would go slower and hence take longer.  Twas not to be.  A 1.5 knot current the whole way sent us both flying along faster than planned.  At nightfall Dave realized that we were going to reach Ixtapa at midnight rather than dawn.  Approaching an unfamiliar rocky entry at night isn’t wise.  So Dave concocted a plan to pull into Calenta De Campos anchorage Friday morning and layover for a few hours.  This would give everyone some time to rest and then we could continue on at sunset putting us into Ixtapa in the early morning light Saturday.  We hadn’t planned to stop anywhere in the Mexican state of Michoacán because of the local unrest.  Local well-armed and well organized vigilante groups have been taking back their towns from the drug lords in what has been largely a lawless state for years.  The Feds got concerned and decided to move in and take back the towns from the vigilantes. None of this is particularly problematic as both the Feds and vigilantes won’t bother tourists.  However, the hordes of now out of work drug lord minions are a problem.  There have been several reports of boats being robbed at gunpoint at night.  So our plan had been to steer clear of the whole area.  However, the choice was to either slow down to 3 or 4 knots – which would make the boat slosh around and be uncomfortable or pull into Calenta De Campos for a few hours.  We figured it highly unlikely anyone would bother us in broad daylight with everyone on the beach watching, so we opted for a few hours of rest and relaxation.

While Dave was asleep at Calenta De Campos, Melissa was hanging out when she heard a skiff approach the boat.  Now remember, this is the bay where we were not planning to stop due to robberies.  She pops her head up – and consistent with what we’ve been told, had her camera in hand and started taking pictures as she comes into the cockpit.  Here is what it looked like (note the spear gun poking out of the boat in the second photo):

First words out of the guy with the hat were, “the US Marshall’s office would pay you good money for that picture”.  Gulp.  Wants to know if we need any weed.  Double gulp.  Then he starts to laugh.  Turns out he is from Miami and has lived here for 12 years.  Considers himself the welcoming committee.  Not clear what the other guy’s role is other than looking buff.  They’ve not seen many boats this year and came out to see what we were up to.  Wanted to know about the whole TIP fiasco and when Melissa explained he was like “no wonder there are no boats this year!”  Of course, he also admitted to owning a small inn which is normally frequented by rich Mexicans and that they have been absent this year as well – no doubt due to the civil unrest.  He says that he is pretty sure he knows who robbed the boat in this anchorage last year – just some local punk kids.  Assures Melissa that the town is perfectly safe and we should stay a while.  Then they motor over to Salty Dog and give them the same welcome.

A while later we head to shore for some lunch.  Salty Dog's poodle, Vivi came with us.  She loves the beach and went running off to play the minute we hit the beach.  While sitting at the restaurant we observe two people swimming out to Salty Dog.  All we can see is two heads in the water.  They reached the boat and went round to the swim platform in back.  Steve (Salty Dog’s owner) runs out to the beach and whistles and hollers loudly at them.  Meanwhile Dave runs to the skiff to get ready for a fast launch to head out and fend off the attackers.  The intruders start to swim back to shore – never having gotten aboard the boat.  When they reach the shore we realize they are a couple of 10 year old boys.  One can imagine their thought process, “Race you to the sailboat!”

Getting back in the dingy was the usual challenge in the surf.  Steve gave Vivi a bath so the dingy wouldn't get too much sand (though how you would know the difference from the sand already covering the bottom isn't clear).  We walked the boat out past the surf line and everyone piled in and off we went.

At sunset we head off again for Ixtapa.  There was a bit of sloshing and thrashing of sails so Melissa retreated into the main cabin.  But when the sun went down it calmed down.  At 10pm Melissa went up to tell Dave she was headed to bed but before she says anything, Dave says, “can you take a shift – just for a half hour so I can sleep a little?”  “Huh, what?  Me take a shift?”, Melissa thinks to herself.  Oh boy.  Dave must be super sleepy to ask Melissa to take a night shift.  This can’t be good.  So she immediately agrees to do it.  All in all she was up on shift for 2.5 hours.  Now that might not sound like much.  Particularly when you consider that Dave did almost 35 hours at the helm on the crossing to Mazatlán.  However, it was her first night shift and she wasn’t even freaking out about it.  Hmmm.  Maybe she is getting used to this whole traveling at night bit.  Nah, it’s probably just the warm breeze and calm seas.  And the fact we were traveling with a buddy boat.

At dawn we pulled into Ixtapa.  A glorious morning sunrise.  There are a ton of small birds around the marina.  Apparently they built the marina right in an estuary.  The birds get even with the humans for this intrusion as they are perfectly happy to hang out on the mast spreaders and drop poop all over the decks all day long.  This marina is also known for crocodiles though we have yet to see any this morning.

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